Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Big Bank Theory

Timmy tossed another brick of dollar bills into the fire pit, as the rest of the boy scouts huddled together for warmth. “Next time it’s someone else’s turn to get fuel for the campfire.”

“I was just thinking. Do you ever think we’ll run out of dollars to burn?” asked Kyrell. Kyrell was always asking questions like that. He asked a lot of questions, but never gave answers unless he knew the answers. He was weird that way. Nobody liked him. “I mean, look around, they’re everywhere. We burn them whenever we want. Last week they clogged the sewer so bad the water ran out…”

“I didn’t have to take a bath for a week,” shouted Mofanda, the funniest girl in the boy scout troop, and everyone laughed, except for Kyrell who was still puzzling through his question.

“Nobody makes dollars. They don’t grow on trees. So we’ll run out of them someday, right? Where did all these dollar bills come from?”

The scouts sat silent for a minute as they pondered. This was a rare silence, and pondering was a rare activity, but Kyrell had asked a rarely good question.

“My grandpa told me, once,” said Shanto, shyly and quietly. It had taken her a full thirty seconds to convince herself to talk. “I asked him where the dollars come from. He said he’s an econonominist, and so he knows. Grandpa’s a very great man. And rich, too,” she was speaking louder now, filled with the pride of her grandfather, “he’s so rich he has over 10 billion followers! So he knows.”

“No one has 10 billion followers,” Timmy cut her boast down to size. “That’s over half of the entire planet.”

This quieted Shanto for a while, but Kyrell prompted here and so eventually she continued. “Well, anyway, he is awfully rich even if I don’t know exactly how many followers he has.”

“Grandpa told me about the dollars. He said that back when he was young dollars used to be money. You could buy things with them, even big things like houses. I thought that sounded silly, because that’s what followers are for, but grandpa said, ‘no, before we traded in followers, dollars where our currency,’ and I know it’s true because grandpa is an important econonomist.”

Shanto was quiet again, but everyone was staring at her, and she remembered she hadn’t answered the question yet.

“Grandpa said they used to keep the dollars in banks. Great big banks. Bigger than from here to that Gatorade tower. But there was a secret the banks weren’t telling people. They actually didn’t have the dollars they said they did. One day the government realized that those giant banks where just giant empty buildings, with hardly any dollars in them at all.”

“So where’d all the dollars come from?” asked two or three scouts at once.

“Grampa said it was a crisis. The banks would fail if they were just big empty buildings, and the president and everybody said they were too big to fail. So they had to fill those big banks with money, ‘cause grampa said ‘nature absorbs a vacuum.’ The government went to work printing dollars and stuffing them into the bank buildings and I guess it was like when you blow up a balloon too fast because the banks ruptured and dollars flew everywhere and just made a big mess. So that’s where all the dollars come from!” Shanto pressed her lips and pretended to blow her nose on a twenty she found on the ground so the others couldn’t see how much she was beaming with pride.

The topic of conversation quickly changed to latrines and teleweb shows and other things of importance to scouts. Kyrell didn’t join the conversation because he was deep in thought over what Shanto had said. Eventually Kyrell interrupted an argument over whose dad had more followers, and blurted: “That doesn’t make sense. If dollars where flying all over the place, and dollars where their form of currency, then everyone would have way too many dollars and they would be useless. It doesn’t make sense. What good are dollars if there’s so many of them that they blow up the banks and are blowing around everywhere?”

Nobody liked Kyrell, and his stupid thoughtful questions. So they grew silent and looked at Shanto so she could put him in his place. It took a few minutes for her to get over her shyness again, but they were patient, and they really disliked Kyrell.

“Grandpa told me about this, too. He said that by the time the gigantic banks blew up, dollars were already worthless and the world had stopped using them anyway. China, who owned most of the dollars that hadn’t really been there so I don’t know how they owned them but they did, were the big bosses then and China said the world needed a new worldwide currency. Everyone agreed and, naturally, everyone started using followers.”

That made perfect sense to everyone, even Kyrell.